NHL Entry Draft

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The stage of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa, Ontario 2008 NHL Entry Draft Stage.JPG
The stage of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa, Ontario

The NHL Entry Draft (French : Repêchage d'entrée dans la LNH) is an annual meeting in which every franchise of the National Hockey League (NHL) systematically select the rights to available ice hockey players who meet draft eligibility requirements (North American players 18–20 years old and European/international players 18–21 years old; all others enter the league as unrestricted free agents). The NHL Entry Draft is held once every year, generally within two to three months after the conclusion of the previous regular season. During the draft, teams take turns selecting amateur players from junior or collegiate leagues and professional players from European leagues.


The first draft was held in 1963, and has been held every year since. The NHL Entry Draft was known as the NHL Amateur Draft until 1979. The entry draft has only been a public event since 1980, and a televised event since 1984. [1]

Up to 1994, the order was solely determined by the standings at the end of the regular season. In 1995, the NHL Draft Lottery was introduced where only teams who had missed the playoffs could participate. The lottery winner moved up the draft order a maximum of four places, meaning only the five worst teams, based on regular season points in a given season, could pick first in the draft, and no team in the non-playoff group could move down more than one place. The chances of winning the lottery were weighted towards the teams at the bottom of the regular season standings. From 2013 to 2015, there was no limit of moving up in the draft order, so the lottery winner would automatically receive the first overall pick, and any teams above it in the draft order would still move down one spot. From 2015 to 2020, there were three lottery winners that received the top three picks, and any teams above it in the draft order would move down no more than three spots. In 2021, the lottery system was changed to include two lottery winners, and they received the top two overall picks, and any teams above it in the draft order would move down no more than two spots.

Beginning in 2022, the two lottery winners are limited to move up no more than ten places in the draft order, meaning that only the bottom eleven teams based on regular season points, could win first pick in the draft. If a team outside the bottom eleven teams wins the first draft lottery they move up ten spots (e.g. fourteenth team wins the lottery and moves up to fourth overall) and lowest finishing team from the previous season is then awarded the first overall selection.


The first NHL Entry Draft (at that time known as the "NHL Amateur Draft") was held on June 5, 1963, at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec. [1] In 1967, NHL president Clarence Campbell and Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) president Fred Page announced a new tentative five-year agreement on August 19, 1966, with several proposed changes to the existing system, effective July 1, 1967. The direct sponsorship of junior teams by the NHL was to be phased out in the upcoming year, and no new sponsored players could be registered or be required to sign a contract restricting movement between teams. [2] The agreement eliminated the A, B and C forms, which had angered the parents of amateur players and were the source of legal action threats when the professional team refused to release a player. [3] Junior-aged players became eligible for the draft once they graduate from junior hockey, or to be signed as a free agent in the year the player reaches his 20th birthday. The NHL agreed to pay development fees to the CAHA for the drafted players. The new agreement came at a time that also leveled the playing field for new NHL clubs in the 1967 NHL expansion. [2]

In 1979, the rules were changed allowing players who had previously played professionally to be drafted. This rule change was made to facilitate the absorption of players from the defunct World Hockey Association. Consequently, the name of the draft was changed from "NHL Amateur Draft" to "NHL Entry Draft". Beginning in 1980, any player who is between the ages of 18 and 20 is eligible to be drafted. In addition, any non-North American player over the age of 20 can be selected. From 1987 through 1991, 18 and 19-year-old players could only be drafted in the first three rounds unless they met another criterion of experience which required them to have played in major junior, U.S. college and high school, or European hockey. [1] [4]

In 1980, the Entry Draft became a public event, and was held at the Montreal Forum. Prior to that year the Entry Draft was conducted in Montreal hotels or league offices and was closed to the general public. [1] The first draft outside of Montreal was held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Ontario, in 1985. [5] Live television coverage of the draft began in 1984 when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation covered the event in both English and French for Canadian audiences. The 1987 Entry Draft, held at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, was the first NHL Draft to be held in the United States. SportsChannel America began covering the event in the United States in 1989. [1]

Prior to the development of the Draft, NHL teams sponsored junior teams, and signed prospects in their teens to the junior teams. Players were signed to one of three forms: the "A" form, which committed a player to a tryout; a "B" form, which gave the team an option to sign a player in return for a bonus; and the "C" form, which committed a player's professional rights. The "C" form could only be signed by the player at age eighteen or by the player's parents, often in exchange for some signing bonus. [6] The first drafts (up until the 1968 Amateur Draft) were held to assign players who had not signed with an NHL organization before the sponsorship of junior teams was discontinued after 1968.

Selection order and draft lottery

The selection order in the NHL Entry Draft is determined by a combination of lottery, regular season standing, and playoff results. While teams are permitted to trade draft picks both during the draft and prior to it (sometimes several years prior), in all cases, the selection order of the draft picks is based on the original holder of the pick, not a team which may have acquired the pick via a trade or other means. [7] [8] The order of picks discussed in this section always references the original team.

The basic order of the NHL Entry Draft is determined based on the standings of the teams in the previous season. As with the other major sports leagues, the basic draft order is intended to favour the teams with the weakest performance who presumably need the most improvement in their roster to compete with the other teams. Subject to the results of the NHL Draft Lottery (discussed below), the teams pick in the same order each round, with each team getting one pick per round. The basic order of the picks is determined as follows: [9]

  1. The teams that did not qualify for the playoffs the previous season (picks 1–16)
  2. The teams that made the playoffs in the previous season but did not win either their division in the regular season or play in the Conference Finals (picks 17–24 up to 28)
  3. The teams that won their divisions in the previous season but did not play in the Conference Finals (potentially picks 25–28)
  4. The teams that lose in Conference Finals (picks 29 and 30)
  5. The team that was the runner-up in the Stanley Cup Finals (pick 31)
  6. The team that won the Stanley Cup in the previous season (pick 32)

The number of teams in the second and third group depends on whether the Conference finalists also won their division. The teams in each group (other than the Stanley Cup winner and runner up) are ordered within that group based on their point totals in the preceding regular season (with the lowest point total picking first). Tie-breakers are governed by the same rules used to determine ties in the regular season standings. The order of picks 1–16 may change during the first round of the draft based on the results of the NHL Draft lottery. In the subsequent rounds, the basic order based on point totals is used. [8]

When teams lose their rights to a first-round draft choice, because that player was not signed to a contract and consequently re-entered the entry draft or became an unrestricted free agent, they are awarded a compensatory draft pick. This selection will be the same numerical choice as the first round draft pick who was not signed, but in the second round. For example, if a team cannot sign the seventh overall first round draft choice, it will receive the seventh pick in the second round of the next draft as compensation. [10]

Draft lottery

At the conclusion of the regular season, the 16 teams that did not qualify for the playoffs are entered in a weighted lottery to determine the initial draft picks in the first round. The teams are seeded in the basic draft order based on their regular season point totals. The odds of winning the lottery are weighted on a descending scale that gives the greatest chance of winning to the team with the lowest point total (18.5%), and the worst chance to the team with the highest point total (1.0%).

The prize for winning the draft lottery is to be upgraded to pick first in the first round of the draft, with each team that preceded the winner in the basic draft order bumped one pick lower. For example, if the team with the 5th worst point total wins the lottery, it would pick first, and the teams with the worst through 4th-worst records would pick second through fifth. The remaining teams would be unaffected. The teams would return to the basic order for the second and all subsequent rounds.

From its inception through 2015, there was one winner of the lottery; from 1995 to 2012, the team that won the draft lottery moved up no more than four positions in the draft order. If the winner of the lottery was among the five worst teams in a given season, that team won the first pick in the draft. Otherwise, the team will move up no more than four spots, and that team will not receive the first pick in the draft; from 2013 to 2015 the lottery winner received the first pick overall regardless of regular season point totals amongst the non-playoff teams. Beginning with the 2016 draft and lasting until the 2020 draft, the first three selections were determined by the lottery. Any team that did not make the playoffs had a weighted chance to select in the first, second or third slot. Beginning in 2021, only two draws will be held for the first two selections. Starting with the 2022 lottery; the teams winning one of the two lotteries will only be allowed to move up a maximum of ten spots in the draft order and teams will only be allowed to win the lottery twice in a five year period. [11] The remaining teams maintain their order of selection based on the points accrued the previous season. As the top two slots are determined by the lottery, no team can drop more than two places from the position established based on previous season point totals. [12]

The NHL Draft Lottery takes place just before or during the Stanley Cup playoffs and is hosted at the NHL Network's studios in Secaucus, New Jersey, from 2020 onwards. The draft lottery previously took place at Sportsnet's studios in Toronto from 2015 to 2019, and at TSN's studios in Toronto from 2006 to 2014.

The odds for the first overall pick are determined as follows:

Draft position odds (2000–2014)
Finish in
previous season
Draft position odds (2015–2017)
Finish in
previous season
Draft position odds (2017–2021)
Finish in
previous season

Draft position odds (2022–)
Finish in
previous season

Eligible players

All players who will be 18 years old on or before September 15 and not older than 20 years old before December 31 of the draft year are eligible for selection for that year's NHL Entry Draft. In addition, non-North American players aged 21 are eligible. [13]

List of NHL Entry Drafts

DraftLocationCityDateRoundsTotal draftedNo. 1 pick
1963 Queen Elizabeth Hotel Montreal, Quebec June 5, 1963421 Garry Monahan (Montreal Canadiens)
1964 June 11, 1964424 Claude Gauthier (Detroit Red Wings)
1965 April 27, 1965311 Andre Veilleux (New York Rangers)
1966 April 25, 1966424 Barry Gibbs (Boston Bruins)
1967 July 7, 1967318 Rick Pagnutti (Los Angeles Kings)
1968 June 13, 1968324 Michel Plasse (Montreal Canadiens)
1969 June 11, 19691084 Rejean Houle (Montreal Canadiens)
1970 June 11, 197013115 Gilbert Perreault (Buffalo Sabres)
1971 June 10, 197115117 Guy Lafleur (Montreal Canadiens)
1972 June 8, 197211152 Billy Harris (New York Islanders)
1973 Mount Royal Hotel May 15, 197313168 Denis Potvin (New York Islanders)
1974 NHL Montreal OfficeMay 28, 197425247 Greg Joly (Washington Capitals)
1975 June 3, 197518217 Mel Bridgman (Philadelphia Flyers)
1976 June 1, 197615135 Rick Green (Washington Capitals)
1977 June 14, 197717185 Dale McCourt (Detroit Red Wings)
1978 Queen Elizabeth HotelJune 15, 197822234 Bobby Smith (Minnesota North Stars)
1979 August 9, 19796126 Rob Ramage (Colorado Rockies)
1980 Montreal Forum June 11, 198010210 Doug Wickenheiser (Montreal Canadiens)
1981 June 10, 198111211 Dale Hawerchuk (Winnipeg Jets)
1982 June 9, 198212252 Gord Kluzak (Boston Bruins)
1983 June 8, 198312242 Brian Lawton (Minnesota North Stars)
1984 June 9, 198412250 Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins)
1985 Toronto Convention Centre Toronto, Ontario June 15, 198512252 Wendel Clark (Toronto Maple Leafs)
1986 Montreal ForumMontreal, QuebecJune 21, 198612252 Joe Murphy (Detroit Red Wings)
1987 Joe Louis Arena Detroit, Michigan June 13, 198712252 Pierre Turgeon (Buffalo Sabres)
1988 Montreal ForumMontreal, QuebecJune 11, 198812252 Mike Modano (Minnesota North Stars)
1989 Met Center Bloomington, Minnesota June 17, 198912252 Mats Sundin (Quebec Nordiques)
1990 BC Place Vancouver, British Columbia June 16, 199012250 Owen Nolan (Quebec Nordiques)
1991 Buffalo Memorial Auditorium Buffalo, New York June 22, 199112264 Eric Lindros (Quebec Nordiques)
1992 Montreal ForumMontreal, QuebecJune 20, 199211264 Roman Hamrlik (Tampa Bay Lightning)
1993 Colisée de Québec Quebec City, Quebec June 26–27, 199311286 Alexandre Daigle (Ottawa Senators)
1994 Hartford Civic Center Hartford, Connecticut June 28, 199411286 Ed Jovanovski (Florida Panthers)
1995 Edmonton Coliseum Edmonton, Alberta July 8, 19959234 Bryan Berard (Ottawa Senators)
1996 Kiel Center St. Louis, Missouri June 22, 19969241 Chris Phillips (Ottawa Senators)
1997 Civic Arena Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania June 21, 19979246 Joe Thornton (Boston Bruins)
1998 Marine Midland Arena Buffalo, New YorkJune 27, 19989258 Vincent Lecavalier (Tampa Bay Lightning)
1999 FleetCenter Boston, Massachusetts June 26, 19999272 Patrik Stefan (Atlanta Thrashers)
2000 Canadian Airlines Saddledome Calgary, Alberta June 24–25, 20009293 Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders)
2001 National Car Rental Center Sunrise, Florida June 23–24, 20019289 Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta Thrashers)
2002 Air Canada Centre Toronto, OntarioJune 22–23, 20029290 Rick Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets)
2003 Gaylord Entertainment Center Nashville, Tennessee June 21–22, 20039292 Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins)
2004 RBC Center Raleigh, North Carolina June 26–27, 20049291 Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
2005 Westin Hotel Ottawa 1 Ottawa, Ontario July 30, 20057230 Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
2006 General Motors Place Vancouver, British ColumbiaJune 24, 20067213 Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues)
2007 Nationwide Arena Columbus, Ohio June 22–23, 20077211 Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)
2008 Scotiabank Place Ottawa, OntarioJune 20–21, 20087211 Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay Lightning)
2009 Bell Centre Montreal, QuebecJune 26–27, 20097211 John Tavares (New York Islanders)
2010 Staples Center Los Angeles, California June 25–26, 20107210 Taylor Hall (Edmonton Oilers)
2011 Xcel Energy Center St. Paul, Minnesota June 24–25, 20117211 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers)
2012 Consol Energy Center Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaJune 22–23, 20127211 Nail Yakupov (Edmonton Oilers)
2013 Prudential Center Newark, New Jersey June 30, 20137211 Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche)
2014 Wells Fargo Center Philadelphia, Pennsylvania June 27–28, 20147210 Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers)
2015 BB&T Center Sunrise, FloridaJune 26–27, 20157211 Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)
2016 First Niagara Center Buffalo, New YorkJune 24–25, 20167211 Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)
2017 United Center Chicago, Illinois June 23–24, 20177217 Nico Hischier (New Jersey Devils)
2018 American Airlines Center Dallas, Texas June 22–23, 20187217 Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres)
2019 Rogers Arena Vancouver, British ColumbiaJune 21–22, 20197217 Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils)
2020 NHL Network studios2 Secaucus, New Jersey October 6–7, 202072163 Alexis Lafreniere (New York Rangers)
2021 July 23–24, 202172233 Owen Power (Buffalo Sabres)
2022 Bell CentreMontreal, QuebecJuly 7–8, 20227225 Juraj Slafkovsky (Montreal Canadiens)
2023 Bridgestone Arena Nashville, TennesseeJune 28–29, 20237224 Connor Bedard (Chicago Blackhawks)
  1. Originally scheduled to be hosted at Corel Centre; venue location changed due to scheduling conflict related to the league's CBA negotiations that ended the 2004–05 lockout.
  2. Originally scheduled to be hosted at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, from June 26–27 before the season was suspended after March 11, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic; draft was held via conference call as a result. The 2021 draft was also held via conference call due to the pandemic.
  3. The Arizona Coyotes forfeited their 2020 second-round pick as the result of a penalty due to violations of the NHL Combine Testing Policy during the 2019–20 NHL season. They also forfeited their 2021 first-round pick. [14]


SportsChannel America began covering the NHL Draft in the United States with the 1989 NHL Entry Draft being the first NHL draft ever televised.

Currently the rights to the draft are held by ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports and the NHL Network which only broadcasts the second to last round of the draft.

Formerly the rights to the drafts were held by NBC Sports and were aired on NBCSN (formerly known as Versus from 2006 to 2011).

See also

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  14. "NHL announces sanctions to Coyotes for violating combine testing policy". August 26, 2020. Retrieved October 1, 2020.